My husband is an avid newspaper reader, and when he sees something that may be of interest to me, he leaves the article out on the table for me to read. The following article was his contribution to my reading material for the day. I’m not sure if he fully realizes that I am familiar with all of the words that were described in the article: cis-gendered, intersex, pansexual, genderqueer, androgyne, omnisexual, transgender — to name but a few. I’ve heard the term “binary” in this context many times, and how the gender identity and sexual orientation spectrum is so much more than binary. I have a community, both in real life and online, where these words are a part of our conversations.
Not so with the populace at large, though. I was talking to a straight friend about a mutual acquaintance of ours who is a male-to-female trangendered woman. Our friend was confused. “But HE was married to a woman and HE is still attracted to women. Doesn’t that really make him a man?”
I did not hold my head as I wanted to. Instead, I said, “There is a difference between sexual orientation and gender identity. Our friend identifies her gender as female. She now identifies her sexual orientation as lesbian. She probably always did. Now it’s official!”
“Oh,” replied the friend. I could tell that this was still a confusing issue to him, and he was struggling to wrap his head around it.
I repeated, “Gender identity and sexual orientation are two separate issues. That’s what you need to know about this.”
Stephen Ira Beatty, a junior at Sarah Lawrence College, uploaded a video last March on We Happy Trans, a site that shares “positive perspectives” on being transgender.
In the breakneck 61/2 -minute monologue — hair tousled, sitting in a wood-paneled dorm room — Beatty exuberantly declared himself “a queer, a nerd fighter, a writer, an artist and a guy who needs a haircut,” and held forth on everything from his style icons (Truman Capote and “any male-identified person who wears thigh-highs or garters”) to his toy zebra.
Because Beatty, who was born Kathlyn, is the 21-year-old child of Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, the video went viral, garnering nearly half a million views. But that was not the only reason for its appeal. With its adrenalized, freewheeling eloquence, the video seemed like a battle cry for a new generation of post-gay gender activists, for whom Beatty represents a rare public face.
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